From the art room...

Snow Scenes…

Inspired by our recent snowshoe adventure I went on my annual search for snowy art installations in the classrooms.  It does sometimes snow here in January, but this year we have had only the tiniest bit to tease us.  Maybe that wishing and hoping for snow has made us all the more creative with our own artistic renditions of wintery wonder – the art in the school halls this year is lovely…

First from Gr.5:   


“Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.” (Andy Goldsworthy)


  Next up – from Miss G.s’ art class – 4th grade:


 “Snow isn’t just pretty. It also cleanses our world and our senses, not just of the soot and grime of a Fife mining town but also of a kind of weary familiarity, a taken-for-granted quality to which our eyes are all too susceptible.” (John Burnside)


From Gr.1:


“We build statues out of snow, and weep to see them melt.” (Walter Scott)

From Gr. 2:



From Gr.6:


“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder.”(Susan Orlean)



  …even our preschool has been playing with “snow”:


“One of the very best reasons for having children is to be reminded of the incomparable joys of a snow day.” (Susan Orlean)


“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, 

Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields, 

Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air 

Hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven…”

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)


Places to Go

In Search of Snow…

I have lived my whole life in the land of frequent rain, and while I love the blue/green/grey landscape with my whole heart there are times when even I get sentimental for other weather…

A few years ago, when she was quite small, Miss G. cried inconsolably when we put away the Christmas decorations before she had seen actual snow.  It seems that snow, in particular, is emotionally tied to our winter celebrations.  There are pictures of snow on Christmas cards, sparkly snow in globes, and snow filled landscapes in almost every holiday film we watched.  Here in Vancouver, though, no snow.  This year, to avoid the blues that can follow a green Christmas we promised to whiten up with a trip to the mountains in search of some real snow…

We were spellbound on the switchbacks up the mountain by the blanketed city lit up below us…

  … then outfitted with snowshoes, poles, snacks and many (many!) layers of woolens we found ourselves a little winter wonderland along the Cypress Snowshoe Trail on Hollyburn Mountain.
I have wanted to do this for so long, and am so glad we finally got around… Beautiful, bright and so much fun for all of us (even dragging G. Jr. up the tiny inclines by pole…)



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Snow Fort

It all starts
with the quality,
the density, the size
of the snow bank.
True now, true forty years ago;
it is the critical ingredient.
We piled it high, over successive storms,
waiting not so patiently
for the right time. The right mix
of wet and cold
Snowman snow.
Digging, with shovels, with hands
creating a dome, an inner sanctum
interconnected tunnels, in and out
meeting in the middle
all within the pile of snow.

(Raymond A. Foss)

From the desk of...


The fourth candle of the advent wreath represents love. Depending on when Christmas falls during the week it can be the shortest week of advent, but love is the Christmas gift that is meant to be the most enduring. Christmas itself is a celebration of love, and when we light the Christmas candle tonight it will be with a wish for love to live in the hearts of our friends and family all over the world…

(by G. Jr.)

Love has been a constant theme on my mind over the past year, thanks to the New Year’s Day invitation from a friend to consider choosing “one word” to represent my journey through 2015. After considering both joy and gratitude – the two pillars of my daily life and the regular focus of this little blog – I decided on love. It was something I needed, and something I could give. As the old song says, “it’s the only thing that there’s much too little of…”

(by Miss G.)

I began with the intention of seeking out, celebrating, creating and sharing love throughout the year.  I was inspired by the many quotes of Mother Teresa who saw God-as-love in every person she met, and posted them over the year on Twitter to remind myself of my focus…

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one come to you without leaving happier.”

“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”

“I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

“Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love… The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.”

“A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.”

“Prayer in action is love, love in action is service.”

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into that action.”

Wherever I went (if you read this blog regularly you know we try to stay on the move) I found love.  Whenever I could, I shared love. It has not been an easy year, and it is not always easy to love, but I have found that the effort has helped me to grow in ways I did not expect.  More than ever I wish for love in my home, amongst friends and strangers, and in the great big world…

(Street Art, Granville Island)

(Love Poem, Miss G.)

(Classroom Graffitti, anonymous but appreciated!)

(Mothers’ Day, Miss G.)

(Street Art, New Westminster Riverfront Park)

(Loving Hearts Staff Art Project)

From the art room...

Halloween Again…

Maybe because I spend September dreaming of summer still, October seems to pass by in a moment. Suddenly the trees are half naked and the world is wet and grey, foggy and grey or just plain muddy grey.  (Side bar: Miss G. asked me today why the tree tops lose their leaves first. Any theories?  We guessed younger thinner branches mean less protection from the elements…)

So here we are at Halloween again, hoping that the torrential rain holds off for at least a bit of trick-or-treating… This will be the last time for awhile that we will see many of our neighbours! As always I am cheered by the decorations. As one of G.Jr.’s school friends knowingly told me today, decorations can make the party! She should know, she is a terrific hostess. Every year we work our way into the crawl-space storage to extract the dusty decorations bin and happily hang the various crafts we have diligently saved since preschool.

The rainy season is warmed each time by the memories and stories that go with every picture.

Perky pumpkins, haunted houses, crooked trees and skeletons…


The children start their crafting in the summer and pile up the pictures and paintings until I have time to hang them all in the hall…
Some of these decorations have been with us for close to a decade, and could probably tell a few stories of their own. In my day dreams they come to life and dance around for one Halloween night while we tramp through the neighbourhood looking for treats in layers of costumes and rubber boots…

We have decorations from the store too, here and there, but the children’s favourites are the ones they have made by hand over the years – I have written the artists name and year of creation on the back of each piece to help us remember the details…

With childlike inspiration for tonight, at least, we can all be brave with the magic of Halloween. We can laugh at things that might normally be worrisome, we can see the silliness in the scary.   We can celebrate light, life and joy in spite of the grey, wet and muddy…

Happy Halloween!

From the art room...

Autumn Leaves…

Somehow in the flurry of back-to-school the season has definitely changed. I’m testing out a new route to work this year that takes me through a kilometre or two of two-story trees; watching the leaves change colour is a wonderful way to start each day…

Fall in all its variation has enough drama to distract me from my own daily.

No matter what is happening in the natural world, however, I never really feel like fall has arrived until the school bulletin boards fill up with autumn coloured leafy paintings… This year some of the most beautiful images are fluttering through our school halls.

These first few images are “in process” from a recent afternoon I was privileged to spend with fifty first graders.  In a mad moment I thought it would be fun to paint. Turns out it was fun. And very, very messy.

We started out with muffin tins full of paint, clothes pins, sponges and pastels.

Then, we painted.

And painted… and painted!


I was inspired by how excited the children were about paint – it was hard to get pictures because they never stopped moving!  In some cases we had to physically remove paint soaked papers in order to preserve them. Completely messy, completely worth it.


It’s a little bit sad to imagine that most children never get the chance to do crazy things like paint all afternoon with reckless abandon…

Some innovative schools have integrated art therapy into their special education programs, but wouldn’t it be amazing if all schools had such amazing art programs that the need for “art therapy” disappeared? Just seeing the wild thick wet crazy paint explosion here is a kind of therapy for me…

When the paint trays were completely dry we knew we had truly painted…

I can’t have all the fun though- one of our Grade One classroom teachers made these amazing pictures with small groups of artistes

First they folded the paper in half, and then painted the tree trunks and grass. Then they squished. Next they painted one leaf colour at a time, squishing in between. After the paint was dry they washed only the bottom half in a watery blue, and painted the top half with a regular blue background. So lovely!

“O hushed October morning mild,

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;

Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;

Tomorrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,

Begin the hours of this day slow.

Make the day seem to us less brief.”

(Robert Frost, from October)

I have to include these autumn leaf prints made by our Grade Five class…


…and just a few snapshots from kindergarten to remind us what is just around the corner…

I hope you find a moment in the messy madness to relish the smells and colours and shapes of this wonderful season. Unleash the child inside that wants to paint and pile up leaves…

Love Letters

Feeding Love…

One of my friends has been grieving the loss of her mother for the last fourteen months. I can only begin to imagine the depth of her feelings; I have shared in her stories (happy and sad) as she travels this new road of life without her Ma.  I am in awe at the love that is not only woven through vivid memory, but living still in word and action every day…

Two months ago, on the difficult first anniversary of losing her Ma, my friend marked the moment with a heartfelt tribute.  What started out as a way to honour one woman’s amazing and generous spirit has quickly become something so much more. One act of love, in memory of a woman who’s life was love in action, is beginning to multiply like the loaves and fishes.  With her blessing I will share it with you, so that you in turn can pass the love along…

 It started with this little container, and a story. 



In honour of “Auntie” Anita’s great gift for sharing we were charged with this task: share the love, fill the container, pass it on. I was in awe. 

The container sat, empty, on my kitchen counter for some time. Here was a token from a generous and loving heart – a woman I never met – that represented so much.  Every time it caught my eye I thought about the life of this woman and the many lives she influenced. I relished sharing in the spirit of her generosity, which filled me up like food for the soul. Auntie Anita lived in my heart and kitchen alongside her container until I knew just what to do… I began to bake. 

As always, when baking takes place here at the Martini house there is a purposeful abundance to share. Like Auntie we have a collection of containers saved to fill and distribute amongst friends, teachers, and co-workers in gratitude for the many ways that they share in our lives. This container, though, was special. It needed to go to a special home. I packed it full of chocolate pumpkin spice cake…


…and included the story of Auntie with my note. 

I knew exactly who it should go to; another friend of mine, experiencing her own struggles, was in need of something special in her life. 

I left this little package on her desk coincidentally on a day that had been a huge challenge for both of us – turning tears of frustration into tears of love and laughter.  


One tiny moment leads to another. One tiny token begins to spread. One gesture, one smile, one act of kindness multiplies across the universe. Now when I think of all those containers piled up waiting to give I think of how much love can be shared. As my wonderful friend wrote recently  about her Ma: “perhaps feeding others fills you up too…”

” If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain. ”

(Emily Dickinson)

From the desk of...


I took these pictures a few months ago, while visiting a local elementary school for a conference with a number of other teachers and administrators.  People who know me are used to my paparazzi like tendencies so they don’t generally comment, but this time one of my favourite colleagues wondered why I was stopping to catch these particular pieces of art… “They’re nothing special!” she said.   “Just wait,” I replied.  “What if I write a post about feeling fragmented?  They’ll be just the thing I need.”


I didn’t think much more about it at the time, but the pictures continued to interest me as I scrolled through them occasionally in my album.  What was it about them that drew me in?  Looking back makes me wonder if they struck a chord because they captured a feeling that I was overwhelmed by at the time… fragmented actually describes it perfectly.  Most of the people I know (and probably most of you reading this now) can relate to that feeling.  In our modern world we have the responsibility to do many things, often all at once, in a short time or no time at all.  I don’t know anyone who has just one title or responsibility – we are all bound by the various roles our lives require.  Sometimes, though, things come apart just a little…


Letting things come apart is an uncomfortable feeling.  When I was working on my education degree one of the articles I remember from the reading list talked about how becoming one thing meant “un-becoming” something else.  The entire process of transitioning from one thing to another is usually painful and not great looking either…


We are journeying through this life in order to learn lessons about how to grow and change with the world and others.  We are not perfect (often the opposite) but we are still worthy of love and learning. In fact, we are more worthy  and deserving in our imperfections.  We need love more.


(Coincidentally) two bands I listen to have recently released albums named after a similar concept of unbecoming/becoming… Kintsukuroi from Hey Rosetta! (based on the Canadian east coast) and Kintsugi from Death Cab for Cutie (based on the American west coast) are both inspired by a beautiful craft –  “the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum… As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”  I love the imagery of the beauty in the broken.  The fragments are intact, and the cracks where one thing was un-becoming are embraced for their flawed imperfection, as the object is becoming something new and more beautiful for the process.


These colourful pictures made by childrens’ hands, with their shapes broken and reassembled, are representative of resilience.  They are wobbly and unsure, but the original shape is still there.  The new shapes, stretched as they are, are bigger.  They cover more space, and are more vivid with the dark spaces contained within them.  The spaces are celebrated.


With a few months between me and my initial reaction to these pictures of pieces I am beginning to see the spaces where growth has taken place, and also some places where more time and stretching is needed to change shape from one thing to another…  Feeling fragmented is one stage of a journey of continual transformation.  Sometimes all the pieces may come along, and sometimes one or two are left behind.  Either way, time and space are great healers.  As the children who made these pictures must know, glue helps.  As the Japanese artisans show, shiny metallic glue is best.  That way the changes and stages can be decorated and displayed with pride.


“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

(Leonard Cohen, Anthem)


Places to Go

Science World…

As always, we feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful city with endless opportunities for adventure. We don’t have a children’s museum here in Vancouver but we have something equally awesome: Science World!  It can be crazy busy on weekends, but we decided to visit on what would have been a school day for some, therefore less busy (in theory!)

On our way there we stopped to admire this crazy sculpture on display for the Vancouver Biennale. 


I am old enough to remember the old Arts and Science Centre on Seymour Street which was neat, but since the move into the geodesic dome after Expo 86, Science World is quite spectacular. I have visited as a teacher many times, and no two visits have ever been the same. Now, as a parent, I get to enjoy it through the gleeful discoveries of my own children. It really is amazing!


One thing we all loved about our recent trip was the focus on eco-science: recycling, stewardship, resource management… it’s exciting to me to know that a great number of people are concerned about and working towards a healthy future for our planet.  (We need it more than it needs us…)


As it happens, it was Green Month at Science world.  Coincidentally the two words start with our two favourite letters:

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The gallery of the dome is filled with art – my favourite was the giant giraffe.


The kids loved the optical illusions…

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…especially the one where the speed and colours could be controlled!


Our day was filled with fun…

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…especially in the water room…

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G.Jr. loved the vacuum tubes (beware of falling balls!)…


I loved the view of the city and False Creek…


Miss G. loved the infrared “air” harp…


Back to the water room – new favourite: underwater tornado.

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Look how hot we got!


This is what I remember best from the old Science Centre:

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After getting truly tired from running room to room we spent an hour building with the Keva blocks.  Not these things, but ours was almost as amazing…

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We finished our visit with some time in the geology wing…


…where I discovered that one of my children weighs the same as a Giant Pacific Octopus…


…and the other one weighs as much as a wolverine…


…before they moved into a beaver dam, where they felt quite at home!

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Our last stop this time was the outside exhibit featuring renewable energy and sustainable urban farming.  Maybe it was due to the perfect Vancouver weather, but this part of our day was my favourite.  (I do have a soft spot for chickens…)

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On our way out I snapped these photos of the carved tree stump sculptures on the lawn…

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… and, as usual, we finished our day at the playground!

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“Upside-down trees swingin’ free,
Busses float and buildings dangle:
Now and then it’s nice to see
The world — from a different angle.”

(Shel Silverstein, Falling Up)


From the art room...


The days are getting warmer, brighter, and longer.  The chores are mounting (garden! laundry! garage!) and yet our yearning for hammock time and lazy days is growing just the same.  I have started to detest the word “busy”.  I don’t really like to find myself so busy that I can’t find time for fun, and I don’t really like to tell others that I am busy as it always seems like complaining (which no one needs to hear – they’re all busy too…) or like bragging (also no one needs to hear – they’re all busy too!)  Sometimes it takes a great big bright colourful reminder to keep me focused on what is really important.


These sunflower pastel drawings (masterfully made by our sixth grade artists) helped me focus every day as I walked past them.  Our garden sunflowers aren’t blooming yet, but when they do they will be steadfast in their daily work.  They turn each morning to the sun and follow it’s journey from east to west, hosting busy bees and bugs while building seeds for us to reap and sow…





  “Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!”

(William Blake)




  What do I need to focus on each day?  How can I hold myself still as the busy world buzzes around me?  Life can be a simple routine followed each day – east to west, sunrise to sunset – but it is also a complex combination of tasks that culminates in the creation of tiny seeds to nourish and flourish for the next season.  Can I be a sunflower in my own world?  




From the garden...

How Does Your Garden Grow? (Volume 2)

After a long winter we are just now venturing out into our much neglected garden…  The greatest thing about it is that the garden grows in spite of us!  Each little spot of green is a moment of hope for the new season…

My mom has always loved her garden – I have great memories of her trucking in dirt and digging up holes – but I never knew the joy of the garden until Mr.Martini and I bought a house with a large yard and began to plant our own.  We have been at it for well over a decade already, and still somedays I look out and wonder when we will ever be close to filling up the space.  Patience, the garden whispers.

“A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” (Gertrude Jekyll)

Plant by plant the garden starts to grow into the light.  First there were the snowdrops…


…and then came the crocuses…


“First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus —
Crocus.” (Lilja Rogers)

Next came the daffodils…


…followed by flower after flower in a tumbling symphony of colour and light.

“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.” (Geoffrey B. Charlesworth)






“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke)




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“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” (Anne Bradstreet)



“Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.” (Ellis Peters)







…and gorgeous double cherry blossoms (hand grafted to wild cherry stock by Nonno – the garden whisperer…)


“April is a promise that May is bound to keep.” (Hal Borland)

…and my favourite (of course!)… the tulips:

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The way the dirt smells, the way the wind blows, the way the garden creatures begin their scrambling explorations of the  hidden garden places… all these things inspire me and remind me that the garden grows green and new each spring – and so can we.  (Patience!)

“Hope is a roving gypsy
With laughter on her tongue,
And the blue sky and sunshine
Alone, can keep her young;
And year by year she lingers
Under a budding tree…”
(Dora Read Goodale, “The Chorus,” in Country Life in America: A Magazine for the Home-maker, the Vacation-seeker, the Gardener, the Farmer, the Nature-teacher, the Naturalist, April 1902)